Chapter 27

NUMBERS CHAPTER 27

Zelophehad’s Daughters

    • Zelophehad’s (from the tribe of Manasseh- Hepher’s son, Gilead’s grandson, and Machir’s great-grandson) daughers, Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah, came before Moses, Eleazar, and all the leaders and Israelites present at the entrance to the Tabernacle to address them saying, “Our father died in the wilderness, not because he was one of Korah’s followers who opposed the Lord, but due to his own sin. He had no sons. Why should our father’s name disappear from his clans just because he didn’t have any sons? Give us a land inheritance along with our father’s relatives.”

      • The following sources provide some additional clarity regarding this situation from the appropriate ancient context: NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible notes, “If a man dies without a male heir, a male relative will redeem the land so that the territory remains within the clan. The levirate land responsibilities are outlined in Leviticus 25:23-28…” The HCSB commentary adds, “The presentation of a case of women’s property rights, an exceptional scenario in a patriarchal culture, would ensure that proper justice be meted out in all property cases in the land.” The NIV source continues, “The potential disappearance of one’s family name is a matter of grave concern…The entreaty within the clan allottment derives from the principles set forth in 26:52-56. Thus the daughters of Zelophehad desire status and inheritance rights within the Makirite clan of Manasseh.”

      • The HCSB includes archaeological corroboration for this incident, “The names of two of Zelophehad’s daughters, Hoglah and Noah, are preserved as the names of districts or towns in the region of Samaria (within the territory of Manasseh) in the Samaria ostraca (inscribed pottery fragments). These come from the eighth century BC, at least 200 years before the exile of Judah…The decision in the case of Zelophehad’s daughters, set forth in the days of Moses in the second millennium BC and fulfilled in the land distribution under Joshua (Joshua 17:3-6) would still be in force more than 500 years later.”

Samaria ostraca- pottery fragment
    • Moses presented their case to the Lord and He said, “Zelophehad’s daughers have a legitimate claim. Transfer their father’s inheritance to them and assign them property among their father’s brothers. Give the Israelties the following instructions: When a man dies without a son, his inheritance transfers to his daughter. If he doesn’t have a daughter, then his inheritance passes to his brothers. If he doesn’t have any brothers, his inheritance passes to his father’s brothers. If his father had no brothers, his inheritance passes to the nearest relative in his clan. This is to be an ordinance for the Israelites, just as the Lord commanded Moses.”

      • Wenham notes, “Allowing daughters to inherit, where there were no sons in the family, created another problem though. When they married, they would take the family land with them, thus destroying the father’s estate. To deal with this, chapter 36 brings in additional rules governing the marriage of heiresses.”

Joshua Chosen to Lead Israel

    • Then the Lord told Moses, “Climb up this mountain in the Abiram Range (Mount Nebo) and look at the land that I have given to the Israelites. After you have seen it, you will be gathered to your fathers like your brother Aaron because of your disobedience at the waters of Meribah at Kadesh in the Desert of Zin. When the people rebelled there, you didn’t obey My command to display My holiness before them.”

      • Guzik writes, “Moses was first told he would die before coming to the Promised Land in Numbers 20. It was still many months until Moses would climb to the top of the mountain, able to see the Promised Land but not able enter it, and die there (Deuteronomy 34). Yet God told him of it here, so as to prepare his heart for the right time.”

    • Moses replied to the Lord, “May the Lord, the God who gives breath to all living things, appoint a man to lead the people? Someone who will guide them and lead them in battle so they won’t be like sheep without a shepherd.”

      • Guzik points out, “After hearing of his coming fate, Moses does not try to talk God out of it, or complain – his only concern seems to be for the congregation, for the people, not for himself.”

    • The Lord answered, “Bring Nun’s son Joshua, who has the Spirit in him, before Eleazar and all the people. Commission him in front of everyone, laying your hands on him and transferring some of your authority to him so that the people will obey him. Joshua is to stand before Eleazar and Eleazar will consult the Lord for him using the Urim to determine His will. This is how Joshua and the Israelites will determine everything they should do.”

      • Reference to the “Spirit” in verse 18 is rendered variously depending on which translation you are reading.

        • Some versions render the phrase in a variation of “a man who has the Spirit in him” indicating that Joshua was indwelt by the third person of the trinity- the Holy Spirit. For example: ASV, HCSB, ESV, NASB, NKJV, NLT, the Septuagint, Young’s Literal Translation, etc.

        • Alternatively, the phrase is rendered “in whom is the spirit” indicating “endowments and qualifications” given by God rather than the actual Holy Spirit. For example, the NIV reads “in whom is the spirit of leadership.” Translations with this rendering include: KJV, NIV, NRS, RSV, etc.

        • The NET Bible offers the following, “The word ‘spirit’ probably refers to the Holy Spirit, in which case it would be rendered ‘in whom is the Spirit.’ This would likely be a permanent endowment for Joshua. But it is also possible to take it to refer to a proper spirit to do all the things required of such a leader (which ultimately is a gift from the Spirit of God). The Hebrew text simply says ‘in whom is a spirit.’

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible states, “This act (Moses laying on his hands) symbolized the transfer of authority from an elder statesman to his assistant (Numbers 8:10-14). Moses did this publicly so that Joshua’s leadership would be incontestable…Joshua assumed only some of Moses’ authority. Moses had face-to-face contact with God (12:6-8; Deuteronomy 34:10-12), but Joshua had only indirect access to revelation, since he had to consult with Eleazar the priest on important matters. Israel would keep military and spiritual leadership separate hereafter.”

    • HCSB commentary reminds us, “The Urim and Thummim were 2 objects used to determine God’s will (Exodus 28:30). For more information about the Urim and Thummim you can refer to our notes for Exodus 28.

    • Moses did as the Lord commanded him, presenting Joshua to Eleazar in front of all the Israelites, laying hands on him, and commissioning him to lead the people.

Click here to go to chapter 28